Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

Friday, December 30, 2011

Related by Blood

Awhile back I heard from an acquaintance who asked to come and spend the afternoon with me. My initial reaction was to say no.

This woman seemed so different from me. Our likes, attitudes, and goals are so very different. And it would have been quite simple for me to use any one of my ready excuses: it's a school day, we have several things going on that evening, Jesse will need my attention ... I don't have time. All are true on any given day, but I was feeling guilty at the thought of offering lame excuses simply because I didn't want to get to know someone new.

As I wrestled with myself, I prayed aloud and asked God if I really needed to have her over. The gentle reply came to my heart. "Perhaps you don't need it, but she does." Oh.

"But, but ... I have lots going on! I don't have time to hang out with good friends let alone someone who I barely know!"

And that voice spoke again. "She is my daughter. She is your sister in the faith. She is family."

That one struck me like a two by four. Josh and I have always had an open door for family. Whether it's a week long visit from far away at an inconvenient time or a quick dash to the house for some sugar, we don't turn family away. We consider those relationships to be paramount and we've always told our family members that any time they want to see us, we'll make room. Room in our schedule, in our home, in our lives.

So here was God plainly telling me that I was trying to shut out a family member. Not a biological family member, but one related by blood just the same. The blood of Christ. And if I truly view her as such, then I must keep my door, my schedule and my life open to her.

Talk about conviction. So, I opened the door wide. I invited her in. We shared life. And we began a relationship. We may be quite different from each other, but then I shouldn't be surprised. I have several immediate family members that are practically opposite of me! And yet I choose to love them.

And there's the crux. Love. A choice. The moment I opened my door I chose to love this new sister. And I can honestly say I'm richer for it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ten on Ten: December 2011

ten on ten button

I recently found out about Ten on Ten. Here's the description:

... a fun and interactive way for blogger's from all around the globe to document a snap shot of their lives too, once a month on the tenth taking a photo an hour for ten consecutive hours. Finding much life and beauty among the ordinary things of our day! To participate simply visit the blog on the tenth of the month and add your blog to the linky party so that all can check out your day!

Today was a rather unusual day filled with cookies, an unsightly kitchen, books and even a nap!

So here's my first go at Ten on Ten:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Cup of Patience and a Dash of Grace

I began homeschooling three years ago with grandiose visions of teaching my children all they would need to know about practical things like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and repairs. And of course they would also be advanced in all subjects, speaking several languages, and reading a book a week.

Okay, okay. Maybe my dreams weren't really quite that big, but I definitely expected to fit more in than real life normally allows.

One of those dreams was to teach my children how to cook. I figured that since my kids would be home all day, I'd just give each one a week of the month and they would cook for that whole week with me.

But I forgot something.

I don't like to cook with kids. Ever.

I'm not one of those moms that overlooks sticky floors, messy counters, licked spoons dropped back into the batter, and inedible results after hours in the kitchen. I typically find cooking with my children to be exhausting, frustrating, and an overall headache-producing endeavor.

This year, however, I am braving the kitchen with ONE of my children. I have decided that 5th grade will include a unit on cooking. Whichever season does not include a sport for the 5th grader will be the time they tackle this intensive unit. For David, my current 5th grader, that means now.

We started two days ago. And amazingly, it's going really well! There's something to say for a child who can use a knife without supervision, listen to instruction and actually do what they're told, read a recipe, keep the mess to a minimum, and have the good sense not to burn themself on the stove.

So far we've made stir fry and potato soup. On the menu for later this week are beef stew, chicken and rice casserole, spaghetti and other yummy meals.

I love that I am enjoying cooking with my son. It reminds me of when Josh and I first married and would cook a meal together - except that David doesn't use every single pot in the kitchen.

My goal is to have David cook an entire week of meals on his own by the end of this unit. Meaning that he'll have to plan the menu, make the shopping list, shop with me and pay at the register, and then cook all the meals.

He swears he'll never get married, so I have convinced him of the importance of this by appealing to his stomach. I mean, really, what man wants to eat microwave meals every night when he finally leaves the nest?

So, here I go! Wish me luck. And pray that I have patience in the kitchen for the next three months. Because after this kid, I have four more to go.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Floored by the Lord!

I love the title of this particular post. I was talking with Josh about some great things God has done for us lately and I said, "Man, I'm just floored by the Lord and His goodness to us!"

I find it rather surprising that I'd be floored by the Lord this week. We've had a ridiculously difficult week. I'm sure we've been under spiritual attack. Josh and I have not been communicating AT ALL. Meaning, he could ask how I am doing and I hear that the weather is strange today. Wierd stuff. Beyond that, it seems that everything possible is going wrong on any given day.

For instance, let's take a look at Friday. My 5 year old son was scheduled to have his tonsils and adenoids out on Friday morning. Of course my daughter woke that morning feeling queasy - which meant that we couldn't in good conscience leave her with our friend for the day. So we packed our daughter, our surgery-ready son and the baby into the van and took off. Oh, and because my husband still had to work at least part of the day, we drove separately.

The day had already been rough. I had missed breakfast - which makes for a very cranky mommy. I was emotionally on edge, just knowing that my little guy was going to have parts cut out of his throat. We were running very late (we had to get the older two boys to the babysitter by 6:50am), and I had to wake a really sleepy baby. After several miscommunications with my husband, we were on the road and heading toward the hospital. And then, it happened. Abby threw up. I had no bucket in the car, no time to stop, no extra clothes for her. And because the smell was unbearable for the next 20 minutes of our drive, we drove with frigid air billowing in through our windows.

Thankfully, the hospital staff was understanding and gave Abby a hospital gown to wear for the day. Gabe made it through his surgery wonderfully and after seeing that he was well, Josh took off for home with Abby and Jesse. Poor Josh had also missed breakfast and was so hungry that he stopped at Taco John's for a takeout lunch. Why he ordered a taco salad for the car, I'll never know. But before he could even get a bite, he dropped the entire salad all over the passenger side floor. Lunch disaster. Mess galore. Did I mention that we're saving up for a new van? Partly because we need more space and partly because this one STINKS!

All this to share that it has been. a. week.

Really, imagine one of your worst days and multiply it by 7.

However, even amidst our frustration, God has been working. One thing that Josh and I recently decided was to buy a chest freezer. Life is just too hectic, so in an attempt to knock something regular out of schedule, we've decided to try monthly grocery shopping and store the meat and bread in the freezer. Of course, we'll still have to run out for fresh items, but hopefully this will help a lot. The problem is that our freezer is tiny and even our little dorm sized freezer in the garage is too small to hold enough food for the month as well as the garden produce we froze this summer. And because we just payed out a large sum of money to refinance our mortgage this week, it was one of those "hurry up and wait until we can save money for a chest freezer" situations.

TWO DAYS after we made this decision, Josh was talking with a friend and shared our desire to cut back a bit on our scheduled activities and used our hope to monthly grocery shop as an example. This friend then shared that he and his wife had just defrosted their chest freezer in the hopes to downsize a bit. They wanted to get a small freezer instead. The wheels began turning and Josh suggested that we trade freezers. The next day, our friend came to our house with a wonderfully spacious chest freezer and hauled away our little one. Wow! We hadn't even gotten around to praying about our need for a freezer and God just delivered one to our door.

That makes the week look a bit better in hindsight.

And then the next day, amidst opening Christmas cards, I opened a card that contained a nice sized check. A friend had written a note saying that she unexpectedly came into extra money and wanted to share some with us. She knows nothing about the refinancing or the desire for a freezer. She just wanted to share. She's not a believer, but God was so obviously using her to encourage and strengthen us. WOW!

Okay, Lord, you've floored me! While I sit complaining about my week, God is working out details to encourage me. He was putting things in place before my week even began.

Tell me again, why do I doubt His goodness? Again and again, I am floored by His care, His provision and His love. So instead of looking at this week as an exercise in frustration, I can now look back and say it was the week that God surpassed my wildest dreams ... again.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Still learning

Do you ever have those moments when you suddenly realize that you've missed out on something for YEARS that would have made life so much easier? One of those, "Oh, duh!" moments when your palm makes contact with your forehead?

I just had (another) one of those.

Even after four children, I have never thought of a way to keep the mess from the booster seat off the chair. We came pretty close to ruining some of our nice dining room chairs during the toddler years and have designated one wooden kitchen chair as "THE booster seat chair". In fact, the booster seat just stays on there so we don't have to risk sitting on something gross. Even though Gabe has been out of the booster for at least two years.

But just a few moments ago, I saw a picture of a booster seat with a towel between the bottom of the booster and the seat of the chair. Really??? It can be that simple? Good grief!

So now, in a few months, when Jesse begins eating solids, you better believe that we'll be putting a towel under our booster. And clean up will be a cinch!

Ahhh ... life with kids just got a little better.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Camping out? Then you're missing out!

Psalm 84:10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

My heart has been dwelling on the second half of this verse for several weeks. I find the comparison between "the house of God" and the "tents of the wicked" to be very thought-provoking.

Here's what Webster's has to say about a tent:
tent: a collapsible shelter of fabric (as nylon or canvas) stretched and sustained by poles and used for camping outdoors or as a temporary building

A few of those words stand out: collapsible, temporary.

I'm not one of those people who love to camp. Perhaps that's why this verse is so striking to me. Have you ever camped during a storm? Collapsible is not a desireable attribute during a storm. Neither is temporary.

But a house? Now that's different. Two nights ago we had strong winds blowing through our little town. After putting my son to bed, he came running into our bedroom frightened of the "thunder" outside. I explained that there was no thunder, it was only the wind blustering loudly outside his window. That didn't comfort him. But what did help was when we discussed our home. We live in a strong house. A house that will not blow away or be torn apart. It will not cave in because of the rain or heavy snow. Our house provides safety from the dangers without. Once he understood that, he was able to rest in peace.

Which leads me back to Psalm 84. Doesn't it sound so much more enticing to dwell in the house of God than in the tents of the wicked? All the world has to offer is temporary, collapsible, fleeting enjoyment. But, oh, to spend even one day as a servant in the HOUSE of the Lord! A place of protection, joy, provision. A place where the owner of the house lavishes his guests with the finest of everything. A place where we need not fear the storm's raging winds or the predators lurking in the darkness. His house has strength beyond what you can imagine when dwelling in a flimsy tent. And it is only in the house of the Lord that you will find true rest.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pregnancy Health tips

In part 2 of Jesse's birth story I mentioned that I had a very healthy pregnancy this time around. I've had a few people ask me to share what I learned about eating and taking care of myself during pregnancy. Since I think these tips are really helpful, I'm happy to share. Every pregnancy is different, but for me these four things were instrumental in promoting good health.

1. I had always had what I called "sugar crashes" in my pregnancies. It felt as though my sugar level was super low (this usually happened rather suddenly) and I would start shakng and feel sick. I never was diabetic during pregnancy, but couldn't figure out why I had these issues. Usually I would run to the cupboard for a quick sugar rush. Juice, candy, etc. In fact, I always kept a pack of skittles in my purse for such moments!

I learned that these episodes were not actually the result of my body needing sugar, but rather protein. When it happened with this pregnancy, I just ate a big spoonful of peanut butter, a handful of nuts or an egg. It actually curbed the symptoms much quicker than the sugar and it lasted longer. (A few times I even brought our peanut butter jar along with me to long events so that I'd have something for a quick fix.)

Basically, I found out that protein is really, really important. For instance, when you go for your glucose test, if you eat a couple of eggs and a piece of wheat or whole grain toast, you'll do well on the test (most likely). If you eat cereal or fruit, you're more likely to fail the test. Eggs in the morning are one of the best things you can do. Try to get some protein at every meal and really stock up on the green veggies too.

2. I switched vitamins. I had been taking just normal prenatal vitamins - like the one a days that you can buy in the grocery store. My midwife had me switch to an organic vitamin by New Chapter Organics . These are better absorbed by the body because they are made from all natural ingredients. The ones I took required me to take 3 vitamins a day - which seems like a lot, but was actually really good. I have never felt so healthy - pregnant or not! I've actually started Josh taking their men's vitamins as well. These vitamins are quite expensive, but so very worth the cost!

3. The third thing that made a big difference - especially in labor and postpartum was drinking Raspberry Leaf Tea. It's not "raspberry tea" and actually tastes a bit like grass. I liked to put just one spoonful of sugar in to help the taste. You want to make sure you let the bag steep for about 10-15 minutes before you drink it though. Just one cup of this each day will help your contractions be really effective during labor. It also is very useful in protecting against urinary tract infections. After labor it also helps to reduce the amount of bleeding. I saw a HUGE difference in the amount of bleeding after labor. I really think that was mainly because of the tea. You can find this tea and the vitamins at an organic or whole foods store. (One aside about the tea: some women drink it a LOT and find that their labors go very quickly - like so quickly that they don't feel ready for it. I'd suggest just one to two cups a day.)

4. I started taking a probiotic each day. This is one thing I'm continuing postpartum. I love it! The probiotic will just even out your digestive system (which can really get kind of wonky during pregnancy). It's like eating something like 10 cups of yogurt daily, so it's really good for your regularity, digestion, etc. Some doctors think it can cause labor to delay and will have patients stop taking it in the last couple weeks of pregnancy (although this theory is not proven). I had tested group B strep positive, so I continued to take mine since it would help to eliminate any chance of infection for me or baby. And given that Jesse was right on time, I can't say that it stalled my labor!

And here's a freebie for those who read this whole thing and aren't pregnant:

If you are beginning to feel sick, when you shower take just a couple of seconds at the end of your shower and switch to cold water. It can actually help keep you from getting sick! It causes your blood cells to rush to the surface (just under your skin) where they can fight off infection. Oh, and it's also been proven to promote healthy hair. A win-win!

A Serious Math Problem!

In our small group we are working our way through the Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage videos.

Last week was our first session addressing sex in marriage. I won't go into all the details (although I'd highly suggest you check out the videos). At one point the speaker talks of how men generally need much less time to climax than women. His statement went something like this:

"If men need only two minutes, and women need 7 or more ... you have a serious math problem on your hands!"

Now these videos are hilarious, but I wasn't expecting to get a good laugh out of it several days later from none other than my child!

On our first school day after small group, I found out that one of our children had been listening in during that particular part of the video.

As we sat working on math, he said, "You know, I heard what you guys were talking about in small group."

"Oh?" I asked, as I began to sweat, wondering what detailed sex question I'd have to answer next.

"Yeah. He said that women aren't as good at math."

I thought about that for a moment, and after coming up blank, asked what exactly he had heard.

"Well, he said that if men take 2 minutes to do a math problem and women take 7 minutes to do the same problem, then women really have a problem with math."

"Ah ... yes. That would be true."

Praise God that all he heard was talk of a math problem!! Maybe next week we'll turn the volume down a bit!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Singing through life

Ugh. Once again, my best intentions of writing frequently have fallen by the wayside.

Daily, I find things I'd like to write about, but never seem to get to the computer with enough time or enough hands free to actually write. Lately, I've only had computer time when the baby is in my arms - which means I've been pecking everything I write. Not very conducive to writing whole paragraphs - or even whole sentences!

But, you know what? That's okay. Beacuse I'm doing something better. I'm investing my time in my children. I'm putting schoolwork ahead of other priorities each day, I'm enjoying my sweet baby while he's still so tiny, and I'm doing my best to see to the needs of my household.

And on a week like this one, I'm basking in the glorious weather God has given us!

Today, I found my favorite lullaby CD. It's a CD of Celtic Lullabies by Eden's Bridge that I was given before our oldest was born. I have such fond memories of gently rocking in the baby's room, caressing my swollen belly, dreaming of the day I'd hold my firstborn. The sunlight would stream in through the windows and brighten my heart as it bounced off the cheery yellow walls.

This afternoon, as I sat in our living room and rocked our tired little one to sleep, I was transported back 11 years to those happy days. As the sun poured into the living room and Jesse grew sleepy in my arms, I laid my head back and remembered the joy of doing the same thing with each of my sweet children.

There's one song on this particular CD that I have sung to each of my children. It is a blessing that I pray over them. It's taken from Numbers 6:24-26 and says,

"The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."'

What a beautiful thing to pray and sing over my children!

So please forgive me if I am somewhat lax in my writing ... I've got a baby to sing over.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Harvest

Yesterday we had the privilege of hearing from our missionaries to Papua New Guinea. It's always good to hear of what God is doing in other parts of the world.

As our friend was speaking, he shared a statement that really struck me. He said,

"It's not fair that so many people get to hear the gospel twice when there are many who haven't even heard it once."

Wow. How true. Of course, it often takes more than one time of hearing the gospel for it to sink in and have an impact. Some people hear the gospel when they are not yet ready to receive it and therefore need to hear it again.

But he's right in that there are many who have not yet heard! In Papua New Guinea there are hunderds of tribes that are unreached. Most are in remote areas accessible only by helicopter. And these people, when finally reached and told about Jesus, are CHANGED! It doesn't take them two, six or fifty times of hearing the gospel before it touches their hearts. It only takes one time. Oh, that our hearts would be so tender!

ESV Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

I know that our mission field is here in Evansville. But where is yours? Are you telling others of the good news? Whether they hear it for the first time or the hundred and first, it is never a work in vain!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's In A Name?

Josh and I choose baby names based on meaning. We like to pray for our children using their names as a basis for those prayers. And we are happy to give our children strong names with meanings they can strive to live up to.

Our firstborn is David Elijah.

David was chosen because it was Josh's Dad's name. We had known since college what our first son would be named. However, the meaning of David and Elijah together is excellent. David means "Beloved" and Elijah means "The Lord is God".

When we pray for David, we pray that he would know that he is the Lord's Beloved and that as such he would teach others (the Church is called God's Beloved Bride) that the Lord is God. We pray that David would embrace that truth and know it for himself as well.

Our second son is Zachary Isaac.

Zachary means "Whom God remembers" and Isaac means "Laughter". This fits Zack so well since he takes such joy in life. We like to put this phrase together: "Whom God remembers in laughter".

But when we pray for Zack, we pray that God would use Zack's loving and fun nature to bring others to Christ. We pray that Zack would indeed know that God remembers him, loves him and saves him.

Our daughter is Abigail Natalia.

Abigail means "Father's Joy" and Natalia means "Child of Christmas". We do know that Abby is her earthly father's joy, but also her Heavenly Father's joy.

When we pray, we ask that she would always bring joy to her Father's heart through her purity and love of Him. We pray that she would remember the One who was born on Christmas and the reason why He came.

Our third son is Gabriel Joseph.

Gabriel means "Man of God" and Joseph means "God multiplies". This one is pretty awesome! A man of God whom God multiplies!

Our prayers for Gabe are pretty obvious. We pray that he would indeed be a man of God. And that God would multiply. Not just through Gabe's children, but also that those who come in contact with Gabe would be so struck by seeing God shine through Gabe that they would also be drawn to Christ. We pray for the church to be multiplied through Gabe.

And our newest arrival is Jesse Hosea.

Jesse means "Gift" and Hosea means "Salvation".

First of all, we do see Jesse as a gift. You can read about how God clearly ordained for him to be in our family by reading here. But beyond that, we pray that Jesse would personally know the gift of salvation. And that he would be willing and able to bring the good news of that gift to others.

A name is important. In the Bible, people were given names that had specific meaning and that correlated to who God had created those people to be. When we pray for our children using their names, we are trusting that God will raise them up to be living examples of the meaning of their names.

What do our kids think? They love knowing that we put careful thought into naming them and they love hearing us pray for them using their names. It's special to know that you were named with a purpose and have something valiant to strive for.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jesse's Birth Part III

I have been asked to write Jesse's birth story. I'm glad to do so in the hopes that it encourages other women out there to think outside the box a bit when it comes to pregnancy and labor and children.

Jesse's Birth Part 1
Jesse's Birth Part II

{Warning: this blog entry shares candidly about the birth process. Don't read it if that makes you nervous.}

My water broke at 12:30am on Jesse's due date. (I've delivered three of my five babies on their due dates! Isn't that odd?!) I tried to get some sleep knowing that I had a marathon ahead of me. But really, who can sleep well when they know their baby is on the way? An hour later my contractions started. I had been having contractions for WEEKS. Sometimes they were really intense. I can't say these were any worse than what I'd already experienced in pre-labor, but at least I knew they were for real. Around 8am the contractions had gotten to about 8 minutes apart and were lasting close to a minute. I called our midwife, Leah, knowing she had a 45 minute drive and that the tub would arrive with her. We then sent the kids over to my parents house so they wouldn't be traumatized by the experience. After all, we want to have grandchildren some day!

At 9am Leah and her two assistants arrived at our doorstep. They set up the tub and made sure everything was ready for the birth. At which time, my contractions completely stopped. Josh and I tried so many things to get them going again, but we just couldn't seem to get regular, hard contractions to surface. We walked around the block (several times), I trudged my heavy body up and down flights of stairs again and again. I tried resting. I tried rocking. I tried the birthing ball. I ate lunch. Nothing was working.

Around 2pm, we were frustrated and also somewhat concerned since my water had broken 14 hours before. I really had no desire to go to the hospital, but knew that if this continued for a full 24 hours, a hospital birth was likely going to be our only option. While walking the block, Leah had given me some herbs to try. First, she gave me blue cohosh. It was just 3 tiny pills that I dissolved under my tongue. We tried a couple rounds of that, but it didn't advance labor. But THEN, she suggested we try two other things. First, she gave me some black cohosh pills and she instructed Josh to try some nipple stimulation. I don't know if it was one or the other or both, but something sure worked. Within just a few minutes (literally about 10 minutes!) I was in transition. I went from zero contractions to "this baby is coming NOW" contractions. (Which I am so thankful for, because there was talk of me drinking some castor oil. Blech!)

Since the tub was already set up and ready in our room, Josh headed downstairs to get Leah and we promplty got me into the tub. The warm water felt heavenly - for about a minute before my contractions began again. It seemed I could barely catch my breath between them, but then again, that's how it's supposed to be. I tried several positions: sitting, squatting, hands and knees. I was most comfortable squatting near the edge of the tub holding onto Leah's arms as she steadied me so I could lean back. But with each contraction the most important thing was for Josh's hand to be pressing on my back. I've had back labor twice before and got to experience it once again with Jesse.

I can say that although I pushed for longer than I typically do, everything felt more natural. I wasn't flat on my back with people holding up my legs, yelling at me to push. Instead, I had the midwives gently encouraging me, telling me that I was doing things just right. When the pain was overwhelming, they assured me that the end was in sight and that I would be able to get through it. Josh was lovingly providing counterpressure for my back and no one fussed when I wanted to move about. Thankfully, Josh thought to close the bedroom windows so our neighbors wouldn't freak out when they heard my loud moans and groans. (I've heard of people having silent births, but I just don't know how you do that when you're going without meds!)

At the very end, I got onto my hands and knees in the tub. My legs were cramping from squatting and I needed a new position. I could tell that Jesse was ready to arrive, so I pushed continuously - even after the contraction ended. There really wasn't any time between pushing out his head and the rest of him. He just came all at once! Josh was able to help catch him and I was able to hold him immediately. He didn't cry immediately, but there was no fear. His color was good and he was not tangled in the cord. I think the water birth was actually easier on him. He came out very relaxed! Once I had held Jesse for a couple of minutes, the midwives and Josh helped me (while I was still holding slippery little Jesse) out of the tub and onto the bed. I was able to nurse him immediately as they helped Josh cut the cord and I delivered the placenta. I had no tearing and much less bleeding than normal.

Josh then took Jesse and washed him off. The midwives checked him over thoroughly. They cleaned the room, gave us care instructions and helped get some food and drink into me. And then they were gone. The kids came over with Nana and Grandpa just 3 hours after Jesse was born. You couldn't tell that I had just given birth in that room!

And once everyone left, Josh and I were able to care for our sweet little one on our own. No nurses coming and going throughout the night, no loud beeping machines, no bright lights. Just a quiet household where two parents were getting to know their newest child.

I have to say that without a husband willing to really be there for his wife, a homebirth wouldn't be a wonderful thing. Josh was incredible during that first week. (He's incredible all the time, but I was amazed with his patience and care after Jesse's birth.) He set up a cot in our room so that he was right there if I needed him and so that Jesse and I could share the bed. For the first 24 hours, he was required to be at my side any time I needed to get out of bed. He changed the icky meconium diapers and brought me food and drink any time I was hungry or thirsty. He did the laundry, washed the dishes, kept the house clean, fielded phone calls and visitors and never once complained. Without him at my side, I wouldn't have considered this birth a success.

Our sweet boy was born at 4:14pm. He was healthy, alert and quiet. Would I say that 16 hours of labor was worth it? You bet! How about laboring with no meds? Absolutely. It was difficult, but in retrospect, I can most definitely say that this has been the most positive birth experience for me. I've had an epidural, I've labored for more than 24 hours, I've had back labor, labor with no meds, an emergency C-section, a VBAC and now a home birth. Out of all of those, this was hands down the best.

And look at the sweet little man I now have to show for it!

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Jesse's Birth Part II

I have been asked to write Jesse's birth story. I'm glad to do so in the hopes that it encourages other women out there to think outside the box a bit when it comes to pregnancy and labor and children.

In part 1 of Jesse's story I told you how we had come to the place where we were even willing to consider expanding our family and how God had blessed us with little Jesse on the way.

So, what happened next? Well, we decided to try something new.

Our cousin recently had a homebirth and raved about the experience. I was intrigued by her enthusiasm about birthing at home. I had already delivered four children in the hospital and had never once considered a home birth. I knew that some women chose to give birth at home, but in my mind it was something archaic and mainly still practiced by the Amish. But as I read about Amy's experience (which you can read about here), I felt a real desire for something better than what I had experienced in the past.

Josh and I talked a lot and did a lot of research on home births. We found that it's not archaic, can be a wonderful experience, is in some ways safer than a hospital birth, and can be tailored to your preferences. Hmm. Sounded good. Beyond that, we found out that for a couple with no maternity insurance (like us) it's a whole lot cheaper than a hospital birth. Like a quarter of the cost!

We did some online checking and some asking around and found a midwife to interview. Although her office was 45 minutes away, we left our initial meeting impressed with her calm nature and her desire for us to be as well informed as possible.

I'm sure all midwives are different, but let me tell you one thing we loved about Leah. Instead of seeing a doctor who really only spends 5-10 minutes with you at each vist, Leah spent 1 to 1 1/2 HOURS with us at each visit! We talked about everything. I learned things that would have been so helpful in my previous pregnancies. I learned how to eat well. Specifically why to eat certain foods and not others. My visits with her, while much more personal, were much less invasive. I didn't have any internal exams (which could have been done if necessary, but since they weren't we didn't bother), but I still had all the tests done that I wanted. I was still able to get my rhogam shot done, I had the glucose test, had my iron levels checked frequently, had urine tests (which I learned how to read on my own), group B strep test, etc.

All in all, I ended up with the healthiest pregnancy I've ever had. I credit that to the education I received from Leah. She took the time to tell me why things were good or bad and what I could do to feel my best. I chose to follow her advice and was thrilled with the results. I gained just over 20 pounds total. I've had a faster and easier recovery than with any other birth. And I had many less aches and pains throughout my pregnancy.

Enough about the pregnancy, I know most of you are wondering about the birth. How was it to give birth at home? In a word ... natural.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jesse's Birth Story Part 1

I have been asked to write Jesse's birth story. I'm glad to do so in the hopes that it encourages other women out there to think outside the box a bit when it comes to pregnancy and labor and children.

Jesse's birth story really begins over a year before his conception. God had already blessed us with four healthy, intelligent, lively children. And we felt that God had blessed us enough. I don't say that to be flippant, but I know many of you feel the same way. Josh and I were not willing to take drastic measures (surgery) to maintain our family size, but we were certainly taking measures not to have more children!

And then, God began working on our hearts. At first, I began to feel a little restless. I had a longing that I couldn't explain to have another child. I say I couldn't explain it because in many ways I felt ovewhelmed with the four we already had. We had recently begun homeschooling and I had an overflowing plate of "to-do" items each day. I didn't think it was physically possible for me to add in another thing as time consuming and energy expending as having another child.

We dismissed my longings as something that all women must feel at times and figured it would go away eventually.

Then Josh went to Kenya.

He came home full of wonder at the things he had seen and experienced. One day as we were discussing his trip, he told me that while visiting the slums in Nairobi he had come to realize just how very rich we are. We live in a country filled with opportunity. Josh has a steady job that pays him well and that he enjoys. We have a house that doesn't leak and is warm in winter and cool in summer. We never lack for food or clothing. Our kids have toys and are clean.

As we discussed these things he came to the conclusion that if God has blessed us with so much, why should we limit the number of children we have? We have much to offer another child. And we have the great privilege of raising our children to know their Creator. Is that to be seen as a burden or a blessing?

So now Josh was on board. But I was not. I had worked hard at surpressing my longings and had very strongly convinced myself that another child was not the way to go! Again, we were at a stand still.

We let the matter rest for awhile. Occasionally it came up as we talked, but for the most part we both continued to flip flop on our feelings about the subject. When I flipped, he flopped and vice versa. It seemed we'd never be on the same page.

Until last fall.

I went away for a few days to the True Woman conference. While there, I felt God tugging once again at my heart, telling me that he had more for our family. I asked my sister-in-law to pray about it with me - and specifically to pray that God would individually bring me and Josh to the same decision so that we would know it was God's will.

Funny thing about prayer: it works.

I really didn't expect that Josh and I would agree any time soon. But when I came home from that conference I learned that God had already been at work in Josh's heart. Before I even had a chance to tell about the things I had learned at the conference, Josh sat me down and told me that he really felt that God wanted us to expand our family.

Honestly, you might think that I would have jumped up and down at this revelation, but in reality I was quite nervous. I had spent several months preaching to myself about how inconvenient another child would be.

With trepidation and prayer, we agreed to let God do as he wanted with our family. If he chose to give us another child, we would count ourselves blessed. And if he chose to maintain our family size at six, we would count ourselves blessed.

Wouldn't you know that in just the first month of opening ourselves up to God's will (read: not using birth control), Jesse was conceived! Now, we're not a couple that typically has trouble getting pregnant, but we're not as young as we used to be and this was quite a bit quicker than usual. It was as if God was immediately confirming his will to us. And now I can say on the flipside of all of this that I believe he was rewarding us for following in his will - even if we were slow to respond.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Strong Enough for Today

I heard this song this morning and it was hugely encouraging to me.

Today we started school. And I'm teaching four out five kids this year. With an infant. Yikes!

Beyond that most fall activities are starting this week. And the combination of soccer, gymnastics, homeschooling, newborn care, sleep deprivation and doctor appointments has me slightly overwhelmed.

Thankfully, just as this song states, I don't have to be strong enough. My strength comes a bottomless source.

II Corinthians 12:9 says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

A promise perfect for this day!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Blessings to Knock Your Socks Off!

Did you know that God ALWAYS provides?

I have a tendency to forget this truth. I've seen Him provide for our family time and again, yet somehow I'm often surprised when He comes through and gives us what we need or want.

The Bible says in Philippians 4:19, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

In fact, that's where the name of this blog comes from. Our 4 year old son memorized this verse, but instead of "glorious riches" said "glory itches". You'd think that with my blog named after a verse that talks about God's provision, I might expect it and rely upon it a bit more.

Just yesterday though, something happened that has amazed me once again. Our neighbors brought over some baby socks.

This may seem rather ordinary. The neighbor's daughters were cleaning out their rooms and had used baby socks (baby BOY socks) for their dolls. They no longer needed the socks but instead of tossing them they delivered 36 pairs of baby socks to our door.

Big deal, right? Well, yeah, kinda!

You see, when Jesse was born, I dressed him for the first time and realized that I had never remembered to purchase little baby socks for him. But since we were still experiencing summer weather, I figured we'd just get around to it sometime in the future.

Yesterday the weather turned cool. And Jesse had no socks. Until our neighbors knocked on the door. God met a need that I had barely recognized and definitely hadn't had time to think or pray about. But because He cares for my little guy, He provided socks just in the nick of time. That's how great my God is.

Need more examples? I've got 'em!

We gave away all of our baby stuff (except our crib, pack 'n' play, and cradle) because we thought we were done having kids. Obviously, God challenged us on that and along came Jesse.

Incredibly, God has provided ALL that we need for this baby. I can only think of three things that we purchased: our changing table pad/cover, burp cloths and a nursing cover-up. Although the nursing cover was a 2 for 1 deal, so I got one of them free! Sure, I bought one or two outfits, but those weren't necessary. Here's all the stuff that was provided for us through other's generosity (and I'm sure I won't get everything listed!).

- a baby swing
- a car seat
- two bouncy seats
- clothes through the first year at least
- 1290 diapers through size 4!!
- over 1000 wipes
- a diaper bag
- monitors
- a high chair
- hats, socks, booties, baby mitts
- lotion, shampoos, towels, etc.
- winter outerwear
- bedding
- a baby bathtub
- an electric breast pump
- a glider rocker and foot stool
- toys
- 2 weeks of meals
- a Baby Bjorn carrier
- extra birth and after birth supplies
- maternity clothes
- an exersaucer
And all other accoutrements that go along with a new baby.

So, I ask myself. Why do I doubt? Why do I worry?

I have never gone without. My children have never lacked for food or clothing or shelter. We have more than we need. And so often God even provides for our wants.

Indeed, God's riches are beyond measure! And He takes great delight in raining down - no, sometimes pouring out - His blessings.

I will choose to see those blessings and give the credit where it is due. I will praise the Lord.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

She's Baaack!

I'm finally back from my long hiatus! It wasn't a hiatus taken by choice. My computer died. I mean, really died. It wouldn't even turn on. We tried going to the Geek Squad and the price they wanted to charge for fixing it was over $500! Instead, we sent it to Dell and although we did have a minimal charge, much was covered under warranty.

The other day, my computer finally arrived back in the mail. Glory be! It's amazing how quickly you come to rely on technology. It's also amazing how much you store on your computer. I had backed up my memory about 6 months ago, but didn't even think to back up my emails. All of my contacts and emails were gone for two months. Thankfully I now have those back since they didn't have to erase my hard drive. Lesson learned, though. I'll be backing up EVERYTHING in the future.

The other reason I've been remiss in blogging is because ...


If ever a good reason existed, this is it!

On August 20th our fifth child entered the world and captured our hearts. Jesse Hosea is a mello, cuddly little guy who looks just like our other three boys.

Here's David:

And Zack:

And Gabe:

And here's a few of Jesse:

Suffice it to say, I think he's perfect.

I look forward to sharing Jesse's birth story with you. Along with the meaning of his name. But I'll save that for another time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

To You Be The Glory

Really loving this song recently. It's gonna have to go on my play list for during labor. :) Enjoy!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pack Rats, Hoarders ... and Joy?

The other day I needed some time to veg out. It had been a long day and my brain needed some time away from the reality of kids, housecleaning, pregnancy and to-do lists.

I checked out Netflix and decided to watch an episode of Hoarders. I admit it, I wanted something that was going to make me feel good. I've been working to declutter and organize my home lately and although I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, deep down I was hoping to gather some "Ha! My house doesn't look like that!" kind of good feelings from the show.

All began well. Until I heard people say over and over again that they were called "pack rats" as children and that many hoarders grow up in homes with organized parents. I started to freak out a little bit as I thought back to the day before when I had spent two hours cleaning out my boys' room. And then I freaked out a little more as I realized just how often we call a couple of our children "pack rats". What if my children grow up to become hoarders??!!! What can I possibly do to prevent such a difficult road for them?

I ended the show second guessing my parenting skills. Certainly not the feel good fuzzies I'd been hoping for.

And now I've spent two days contemplating the show, my life and the lives of my children.

But I'm more encouraged now. Because I have realized several very important things. First, I am not a hoarder. Although my house is often a mess and we certainly have more than we need, in reflection I can see that I've made a deliberate decision to spend time with my children rather than focus on a perfect house.

Second, although hoarding is definitely often tied to psychological issues, there was something that stood out in each hoarder's comments. Their joy is in their stuff.

Several times I heard the hoarders or their spouses confess that they derived great joy from shopping for these items. Others found joy in the actual stuff - sometimes because of the memories attached to the items and sometimes because it gave them a sense of worth or self-confidence.

Why do I find these things to be so encouraging? Because it means that there is hope for my pack rat children. It means that I have the opportunity to teach them to find their joy in a source that will not destroy them. What source is that? The one true Source of joy: Jesus Christ!

As I was looking up verses in the Bible about joy, I found this one:
"For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting." Ecclesiastes 2:26
Hmmm. Interesting.

There are many verses that talk about joy. There are a few that I really like.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

Speaking of the righteous: Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. Isaiah 61:7 (I found this one particularly appropriate given that with hoarding also comes a deep sense of shame because of the messy and sometimes unsanitary conditions. And so many hoarders have 2, 3, or 10 of the same item simply so that they can have whatever they need on hand at any given time. They collect to provide for themselves, but God will provide a double portion for the righteous - a portion we don't have to buy!)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4

That last one is the kicker. I want my children to walk in God's ways - which the Bible says again and again is the source of our joy.

If I'm to understand Scripture correctly, I can protect my children from hoarding and so many other destructive behaviors by teaching them the truth found in God's Word. If I consistently model trust in God's provision - and draw their attention to the many ways He provides - they will be much more likely to place their trust in Jehovah Jireh once they leave the nest.

I have no desire to come down hard on those who are hoarding. I'm not trying to point my finger and say, "Shame on you!" But for the grace of God, that would be me! Instead, I'm thankful for the opportunity to reevaluate what I'm teaching my children. Stuff is simply that ... stuff. You can't take it with you when you die. But joy in the Lord? That can last eternity!

Where do you place your joy?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Surprise from the Packrats!

To be honest I didn't expect to do any housework today. I had to head out shopping this afternoon and now that I'm entering the 3rd trimester of this pregnancy I'm finding that I really have much less stamina for lots of walking and shopping. Or anything afterwards.

Since I didn't want to clean, I figured I'd have the kids do a little work. (What else do I have little minions for, right?) Thinking I'd get about 15 minutes of productvitiy out of them, I asked all four to head upstairs and begin cleaning their rooms.

Meanwhile, I headed to my own room to fold laundry.

But as I did, I overheard my oldest and youngest working together. The oldest would ask, "Is this to keep or throw away?" And the youngest answered time and again, "I don't want that. Let's throw it away."

Shocking!! My kids are packrats and NEVER. THROW. ANYTHING. AWAY. Never.

I stood in stunned silence listening to the rustle of papers and the sound of said papers hitting the inside of the trashcan. Oh, what bliss!

Now although I had no intention of doing any major cleaning, I couldn't let this moment pass. This sweet and unexpected moment of time when my children were working together to actually declutter our home. Maybe all my work really is rubbing off on them in some way!

So, I did what any sane mother would do. I walked into their room, asked if I could help and began the arduous task of COMPLETELY decluttering their room.

We checked behind and under dressers, we went through bins, we pulled everything out from under the beds, we filled an entire garbage bag with trash - mostly papers and McDonalds type toys - and we sorted, sorted, sorted.

And right now, their room looks awesome. So awesome that I really would like to say they can't play there anymore. But that would be mean.

And what of my sweet daughter? As I worked with the boys for two hours, she worked on her own room. I haven't yet gotten in there with the vacuum, but I know she did her best. I'm guessing we'll work a bit more on it tomorrow, but I'm so proud of her for trying to tackle it on her own. Thankfully, her room isn't nearly as bad as the room where three boys collect everything from buttons and corks to rocks and every card ever given to them.

So although unplanned, it was a hugely productive day. And just in time too. Grandma's coming on Sunday!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Newspapers to Riches

Surely several of you out there in bloggy land have desks that are unused. Unused not because of their placement or impractical nature, but because they look like this:

Yeah, me too.

By now, you probably think I'm the messiest person alive. But honestly, most of the areas I'm showing you are either closed off (like the inside of my desk) or not as noticeable - which would be why they don't get cleaned as frequently. Well, except for the big project that I'm gathering strength for. That's very visible and is one of the areas I hate most in our house. But that's another day.

Today my big project was to declutter my desk. Actually my project started out with just trying to clean off the TOP of the desk since it looked so hideous.

But really it went so quickly that I felt invigorated and decided to shoot for bigger goals. And now my desk looks like this:

BIG difference! And it's not just the visible parts. I organized all the drawers too. I know ... I'm such an overachiever. (Yeah, right.)

You may wonder what all that clutter was about and what in the world I did with it all. Well aside from a slew of pictures, I have actually sorted through everything and put it away. Imagine that!

Mostly I had a bunch of papers that were ready to be recycled. Things like catalogs I had set there hoping to keep gift ideas close at hand, newspapers that housed articles by Josh or pictures of my kids to cut out, and of course a bunch of random papers that really didn't need to be clogging up my desk.

Oh and $70 in cash! That was nice to find! And it certainly made my hubby pretty excited about my desk cleaning adventure. I guess you never know what you'll find hiding amidst the chaos.

So what are you waiting for ... go clean something! You might get rich doing it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cocktail of a Different Kind

Well, I didn't make any progress today on my decluttering ambitions. (Although I did at least get a bunch of dishes done and bought the groceries for the week.)

But today was monumental nonetheless. Today my oldest had to purchase shoes from the ...


Sigh. When did my little baby boy get so big? Everyone tells you when your kids are little not to blink. But I confess, I blinked. I didn't think blinking would really make a difference, but it did!

He's supposed to be this little:

Not this big:

Another sigh.

And did you know that although it's just one size up, men's shoes are a whole lot more expensive than boy's shoes? Great.

You know what else isn't cheap? Groceries. And guess who's eating me out of house and home? Yup. This guy:

(Yeah, the one who feels a need to eat massive amounts of food in order to be strong enough to move mountains.)

I know, I know. Buck up, Ali and get used to it! The next 18 years are going to be full of hungry, smelly, gangly boys. I figure with this one almost 11, I have about 7 years left with him at home. And about 9 left with his brother. And 13 left with the next one and then 18 with the one who's still cooking. Add in some girl hormones for my daughter and we're in for a crazy cocktail of teenage bliss.

But ... yesterday we weren't there yet. So I just need a moment to breathe deeply, remember the little kid years and gather my strength for what's to come. I do look forward to the new stages in my kids' lives, but I sure am nostalgic about the completed stages. They're good kids. Which is what makes it hard for this mom to let them grow and fly.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Operation Declutter: Fridge Top

I'm sure many of you already think I'm nuts. But despite my normal craziness and the chaos of everyday life, I'm just not able to control my organizational and nesting urges!

There's a blog I follow and the author is doing a 31 day challenge to re-decorate her house. I've been reading for awhile now and I can't help but be inspired by the seemingly easy changes she's making. Now, I don't really want to go to the trouble of buying and selling furniture on Craigs List, or redecorating my house. But I WOULD like to declutter my house before the baby arrives.

I'm not delusional enough to think that I can accomplish a decluttering task each day for a month. However given that I have 13 weeks or so before this little guy arrives, I should be able to get several things done. Besides that, my mom has happily stated that she would like to host a garage sale this summer which would give me a great outlet for ridding our house of unwanted junk!

So after much thought and some list making, I decided to tackle my first project yesterday (and part of today).

I knew we had several things going on, so I had hoped to find a short and easy task to boost my confidence in this new venture. I decided to attack the top of our fridge and the cabinet that housed our many, many vases.

Now, you may think that task unworthy. But ... I am ashamed to admit our fridge top looked like this:

And because the front of our fridge looks like this, just about everyone who comes to our house stops at the fridge for several minutes.

And if those guests are any taller than me, they can see the horrid dust and grime that sits atop our fridge.

Now the top of the fridge was pretty simple to clean. Soft scrub, gloves and paper towels make any cleaning job easy.

But remember, I wasn't just tackling the top of the fridge. I also wanted to declutter the cabinet above the fridge. Yup, the one that was filled to the brim with vases to the point that they overflowed onto my countertops.

Simple enough, right? Riiight. As I pulled out vases, I realized that several had the crud inside that comes from icky flower water leaving a film all over the inside of the vase. I'd heard that you should wash that with bleach, so I figured I'd clean the inside of ALL the vases. Smart, Ali.

I bleached every single vase - which by the way does work very, very well. Then, I sorted the vases and decided which ones to keep. I mean, really, how many flowers do I typically have in my house at one time?? So, I kept one of each size of vase (to accommodate different sizes and types of flowers, of course) and boxed up the rest for that garage sale I mentioned.

Oh, and since I'm at the task of decluttering, I just had to stop at a garage sale yesterday that had tons of tupperware and other containers. Makes sense right? Yeah. While I did get a few items to help with some of my decluttering tasks, I also got a few larger tupperware items for the kitchen. Things that I don't have space for, but that I've been wanting for a long time. Like a salad spinner, a cupcake holder and a cake carrier. Seriously, I cringe every time I'm making a salad and have to bruise the leaves to get the water off of them. Really, I do.

So, with this newly cleared space only half filled with vases, I was able to fit my new tupperware items. Yay me! And my fridge is no longer an embarrassment! Well, unless you open it. But that's a project for another day.

Here's a pic of the clean and organized finished product.

I know it's not the biggest accomplishment in the world, but it's a start. And starting is half the battle.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pastors Need to Hear This!

For the past week our family has been living in this beautiful house in southern Colorado.

We've taken day trips to hike, visit historical sites, shop in quirky stores and spend time as a family. We have stayed up late and slept in. We've fished, lazed around and goofed off. All that a vacation should be!

You may be thinking, "Gee. It must be nice to have the money to just up and take an extravagant vacation like that! Those lucky Brumbaughs." And you'd be completely right if we had forked out the money for this vacation.

But God is good and we didn't have to. Yes, we paid for gas to drive out here, hotels on the way and for food and souveniers. But we did not have to pay for a week in a house bigger than ours with more bathrooms than I could count!

We went through a pastoral retreat program called Rocky Mountain Renewal. They offer week long retreats to full time pastors and their families free of charge! And amazingly they aren't the only ones who do so. Check out the Pastor's Retreat Network.

You can find these types of retreats all over the country. Wonderful people who desire to serve those who are serving the church. People who are willing to sacrifice their time, resources and talents so that those who are on the front lines can get a much needed break. I praise God for these people!

Josh and I have now attended three pastor's retreats. The first was through Broomtree. We stayed on Lake Michigan and had a wonderful time fellowshiping with other church leaders and ministry wives while also getting lots of alone time with God and time for our marriage.

Our second retreat was at Cedarly. I'm not sure you could find a more beautiful setting! We stayed in an old, giant house situated on beautifully kept grounds nestled against a lake. We enjoyed things like bike riding, canoeing, strolling in the woods and incredible meals.

Both of these retreats were only for pastors and spouses. No kids allowed. And with both of these there was a required group meal each day when we would gather and talk about ministry together. The hosts of both weeks were incredibly gracious and loving, ready to listen and challenge as needed.

This week's retreat was different in that we were allowed to bring the kids with us. There was also no schedule to keep. In fact, we never once saw the face of a person affiliated with the program. We were mailed directions on how to get onto the property, where to find the house key and specifics on what was allowed or not allowed (such as using the grill if there was a high risk of forest fire). It truly felt as though we were on our own vacation - which was a tremendous blessing with four kids in tow. We shopped for our food, made our own meals, set our own schedule and thoroughly enjoyed spreading out in a huge house.

As we talk with other pastors, Josh and I are learning that so few actually seek out opportunities like these for rest. So can I ask you to do something? Tell your pastor about these things. Most are free of charge, some come with a small fee. Some are only for pastors and spouses and some accept whole families. But nomatter the format, we've found that the refreshment offered through these programs is a tremendous way to encourage those in ministry. At our first retreat we were told that frequently pastors will sleep for an entire day and a half - not even bothering to eat - because they are so worn from constant ministry. Pastors are on call at all times - which often means their spouses and families are as well.

Josh and I decided after our first retreat that we needed to do one every other year or so. It helps us to stay fresh, to take time for our marriage, to spend time with God and to appreciate our church family. And it is wonderfully encouraging to be poured into for a whole week without having to pour out.

So go, tell your pastor about these retreats! And if you have extra resources that you aren't sure what to do with, consider contributing to one of these ministries. What they do for those who serve in God's name is invaluable.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fit to be Tied

Parent to parent, here's a tip for the next time you travel.

Give your children rope.

Yes, rope.

We've been on the road traveling this week and I happened upon this little tidbit after our stop at the Little House site in DeSmet, South Dakota. Each of children had the opportunity to make a rope.

Of course, you can't make rope and not keep it, so we stuffed the four ropes into our already ridiculously crammed van. But can I just say, I've never seen the kids play so well with something so simple?! (In the van, that is. A cardboard box can provide hours of playtime at home!)

That rope was used by my 5-10 year olds to lasso horses (headrests), hogtie stuffed animals, trap and hang imaginary bad guys, and even tie up the rope holder! Notice Pooh Bear in this picture:

I really do believe that without these ropes we would have heard soooo much more whining and crabbiness in the car over the next three days of driving.

So, next time you get ready for a long trip with your youngsters ... be sure to give them some rope! They'll thank you for it and you'll pat yourself on the back for giving them hours of simple fun.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I can identify!

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms in the 'hood!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Great Things

Sadly, I haven't blogged for a full month now. Life has just been too busy!

This time of year is always the craziest for me. Each April we have our annual women's retreat for church. And since I organize it, the month before the retreat is pedal-to-the-metal, all out, craziness! This year was no different.

I hope to share what I learned while preparing a talk on purity in a few posts this week, but for now I just want to reflect on God's goodness.

I shouldn't be surprised, but I'm always amazed at how God works through these retreats. This year's retreat was no exception! Here are a few of the things God did in the lives of 77 women. Stories are still pouring in, but I've been so encouraged by hearing these in the past week:

- One woman came to know Jesus as her Savior and Lord! (that alone makes all the work worthwhile!)

- One woman has been able to conquer her paralyzing fear of almost all things. This week she has rested in Christ's strength and is stepping forth in faith for the first time.

- One woman had been considering leaving the faith and has decided to continue following the Lord - despite the hardships.

- A prayer request for a desperately needed job was quickly answered by another woman's confession that her husband's company is looking for someone with that exact skill set.

- One woman decided to stop heading out for drinks each weekend.

- One woman shared her testimony and found that many could relate to the hardships. Her reliance on Christ was a tremendous encouragement to those going through tough times.

- One woman was encouraged to remain sexually pure until God brings her a husband.

- Several women began to connect with other believers and started to overcome their feelings of isolation.

- Several women stepped into leadership roles for the first time.

- One woman was encouraged not to give up after a severe bought with depression.

- Several women took this opportunity to bring friends and family members who heard the gospel presented clearly.

- One woman who had felt "lost and empty" found peace and contentment in Christ.

And the stories go on and on ...

To God alone be the glory, great things He has done!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wrestling with God

Recently I was really struggling with something that God asked me to do. I had to confront someone - which I hate doing - and was quite concerned about how to do it with grace and love. Especially since it was a really hard thing to say.

As I lay in bed and argued with God, I used the term "wrestling" in my head. I told God that I was tired of wrestling with him.

But then he brought to mind an image of my children wrestling. When they wrestle, they work to pin each other down. They are merciless in dragging their opponent to the floor and then literally laying on top of each other to shout in the weaker child's face, "I pinned you!".

As I thought about wrestling with God, I realized that this image was not at all how I feel. Obviously, God is sooo very much more powerful than me and could easily pin me down and laugh in my face. "Haha! You lose. Now do what I've asked you to do!"

Instead, it's a bit more like fencing. After God gently lays on my heart what I am to do, he stands back and blocks all of my defensive thrusts. I complain, I rant, I whine ... and he just patiently waits until I run out of strength and finally surrender to his will. It's never a battle of strength.

It's more like I throw excuses at God and he blocks my advances by showing me how silly I am.

I have to say that it really makes me feel good to know that I have a God who could easily overpower me, but who is gentle and kind and chooses to let me discover that his way is always best. He truly is a loving father. Not one who yells at his child and says, "Do this because I said so", but gently shares the best way with us and then patiently responds to our questions, fears and objections. Eventually we must come to the conclusion that he knows what he's talking about and loves us despite our own hesitancy to trust him. Praise God!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Spin on 10 Rules

We've been reading from Exodus as a family for our morning devotions. Today, we got to the 10 commandments.

You'd think after growing up in the church and having heard these all my life, I wouldn't get a whole lot out of a simple discussion with the kids. But, I had neglected to factor in my husband's knowledge of Scripture!

Josh read the beginning of the text: And God spoke all these words: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." Exodus 20:1-2

Then he asked a question. What does this tell us about the Lord? Hmmm. We got the typical answers of, "God is the Lord", "God brought the Israelites out of Egypt", "He helped them not be slaves anymore". Yup. That's what it says.

But Josh went on to explain that this simple sentence has a lot more meaning for us than that. God doesn't ask us to obey these 10 commandments in order to get into heaven. Check, got that.

But FIRST He saves us from the slavery of our sin and THEN we obey these commands because we are so thankful for his saving grace.

Now, I know all that too, but I'd never gotten it from the simple sentence, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."

I had thought of this sentence in terms of God introducing himself. This is the first time he speaks audibly to the Israelites as a whole and he tells them who he is. So, I had just left it at that. But it's so much more. It goes beyond just an introduction and moves to a reason for the 10 commandments. And it's not just something he said to the Israelites way back when, it's something he's saying to me now. "I saved you out of the bond of slavery. I rescued you from the penalty of your sin. I am the Lord. Now, put me first and have no other gods before me."

Sure does give a whole lot more meaning to the 10 commandments for a girl who's heard them all her life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes ...

Sometimes my kids just blow me away with their maturity.

The other day, we made a sudden decision to travel several hours to see Josh's stepdad who had just come home after being in the hospital for several weeks. We wanted to see him and to encourage Josh's mom. Although we live several hours away, we are still the nearest family members and felt a need to be there with them.

We decided suddenly to go, but realized that in doing so, our daughter would miss her beloved gymnastics class for the second week in a row. We decided to ask her permission and give her the right to make the final decision.

So we simply explained to her that we wanted to go and visit Grandma and Grandpa, but that doing so would mean missing gymnastics. And since that is her special thing, she could choose what was more important and we would abide by her decision.

She took us seriously. And then she did the unexpected. I had fully expected her to say that we could go, but with a fair amount of pouting and complaining thrown in. Instead, she looked me full in the face and solemnly said, "Mom, gymnastics is important. But there are more important things. And Grandma and Grandpa are more important."

Just like that! No whining, no frustration, no upset. Just a gentle admission that she knew what was most important for us to do and that we needed to do it.

Did you know my sweet girl is only 7? I'm so proud of her! She warmed my heart. But even more so, she touched Grandma and Grandpa with such love when they heard of her decision. Ah, the sweetness of children!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


For a few days now I've been feeling the babe within me move. I have to be very still to feel it, but it is definitely noticeable.

Baby movements during pregnancy are so encouraging. They reassure me that the baby is growing and alive. Tiny movements remind me that I need to care for myself and the child within me. And most importantly, they cause me to focus on the miracle of a LIFE growing INSIDE of me!

Psalm 139:13-16 says, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." - ESV

I read that and I marvel at God's care for every little detail in forming the body, mind and soul of a human being. He does not make mistakes! Scripture says that He knits together each babe. Are not His hands up for the task? He, who created the entire universe, also created the life that is forming inside of me. What a miracle!

So tonight as I hope to feel those sweet flutterings once again, I will marvel at the wonder of God's creation - specifically the little one resting beneath my heart.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Worship in Pain

My sweet husband has been working to compile a set of gentle worship songs that will encourage and bless me during labor in a few months. I know we're ahead of the game, but he's quite excited about the project and I've really enjoyed listening to his selections.

But as I listen, I can't help but wonder if I'll have the same type of worship experience as I am in pain. Bringing a child into the world is not exactly comfortable and worship-inducing.

But perhaps it should be. I'm just beginning to reflect on the idea of worshiping through labor. Delivering a child - created and grown by God - should in itself be a way of bringing glory to the Creator.

I know I still have a lot of thinking to do on this, but I'm beginning now to pray that when the time comes for this child to be born I will be able to focus not on the pain, but on the One who has created life and who will sustain me even through the pain and hours of labor. It must be possible, because we were created to glorify God in all things. All things includes even child birth!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


About a year ago, Haiti and Chile both endured horrific earthquakes. The effects were devastating to both countries and many people were rendered homeless.

Now, we don't typically let our kids watch the news because of some of the really scary stuff about murders, thefts, fires, rape, etc. However, when there are major world events happening, we often talk with the kids about it and ask them to be praying in specific ways.

One of our children's hearts was captured by the stories of these two earthquakes. Would you believe that he has diligently prayed DAILY for the people of Haiti and Chile?!! And not just them in general, but he also specifically prays for the orphans to find homes.

I was surprised after a month or two of his ongoing prayers. But even tonight as he prayed at bedtime, his heart was crying out to God for the Hatians and Chileans. Talk about persistence!

It makes me wonder what I'm persistent about it prayer. Is there anything that grabs me so completely that I pray daily for a YEAR about it? Hmmm.

Aside from praying for my children and husband daily, I really can't think of anything. Sure, there are things that I've prayed for for several years - salvation of loved ones, sanctification, healing, etc. But I can't claim that I've taken each of these requests so seriously that I have brought them to the Lord day in and day out.

Why not? The Bible tells us to be persistent in our prayers. To pray without ceasing. That God hears our prayers and answers them.

But if I'm honest, I would have to say that I am so very self-centered that I just don't think of what I should. My heart doesn't break for the things that break God's heart. My foremost desire is not often to cry out to God for the desires of my heart. To be sure, too often I try in my own strength to fix what I can. And once I've done all I can, then I'll cry out to God.

How backward I am! My first response should be to cry out to God. The One who holds all power in His hand. The One who created everything and everyone. And only after kneeling before His throne and begging for His grace and mercy should I then seek what He would have me do.

My son has it right. And I hope to learn from him.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Politics Schmolitics

Some days I find it really hard to keep my mouth shut.

Josh and I made a decision before entering the ministry that we would keep our political beliefs to ourselves. Oh sure, we vote and have our convictions, but we don't want to muddy the waters of our church by entering into political debates.

Sometimes that's hard though. Like when we invite people for dinner and they rant and rave about their personal convictions. Or in times such as this when there are so many people angry about a bill that will affect all government employees in our fair state.

I have friends that are strongly pushing for both sides of the issue. And although I can see the reasoning on both sides, I definitely lean heavier in one direction.

But I'm keeping my mouth shut.

The Bible says in Proverbs 12:15 "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice."

I believe the Bible has the most accurate advice that we can get.

This is exactly why Josh and I refuse to get involved in political debate. We trust that as people grow deeper and stronger in the Word, they will be moved by the Spirit to make sound decisions. Our job as leaders in the church is not to guide people to follow us politically, but rather to guide them to Christ. If we can teach people to search and understand the Scriptures, then they will make wise choices.

So, that's where I fall politically. Not republican or democrat. But a Bible advice-seeker approaching the issues through prayer. As God's people, we need to cut through all the mud-slinging and anger and decide what would really be the most God-honoring response. Because when it's all said and done, shouldn't we be glorifying God even through our politics?